Satoko Fujii / Natsuki Tamura: Pentas: Tribute To Eric and Chris Stern

Dan McClenaghan BY

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Satoko Fujii / Natsuki Tamura: Pentas: Tribute To Eric and Chris Stern
Pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura came off a European tour in 2019 and went into the studio in Krakow, Poland, and recorded Pentas, their seventh duo disc, an effort that joins the Fujii/Tamura pairings How Many (Libra Records, 1997), Clouds (Libra Records, 2002), Like In Krakow, In November (Not Two Records, 2006), Chun (Libra Records, 2008), Muku (Libra Records, 2012) and Kisaragi (Libra Records, 2017).

Freshness and adventurous spontaneity are the trademarks of Fujii's music, whether it's one of her several big bands, her quartet Kaze, her numerous trio affairs, or her particularly intimate solo excursions. But the level of those two attributes rises to its highest arc on her duo recordings—with drummers Ramon Lopez and Tatsuya Yoshida, lap-topper Ikue Mori, keyboardist Alister Spence, bassist Joe Fonda and more. And the freedom of expression and a palpable joy of creation afforded by the duo format rises to the next level when she plays—just her piano and his trumpet—with Natsuki Tamura.

Two things set Penatas apart from the couple's previous duet sets: One—half the compositions come from Tamura's pen, whereas Fujii's writing dominated the earlier recordings; and two—these sounds feel more worked out, more polished and lyrical, more approachably beautiful than the music on even the best of its predecessors, Muku and Chun.

Tamura is a man full of whimsy. His "Itsomo Itsomo" features a section of piano/trumpet call and response reminiscent of a 2008 San Diego concert of Fujii's Ma-Do band, where the trumpeter blew into a spontaneous back-and-forth to the call of the whistle of a passing freight train. "Itomo Itomo" harbors—as do many of Tamura's compositions— an embedded sense of the absurd amid a strong structural architecture. In addition, there is a seamlessness to the Fujii/Tamura interplay, on a tune that has been worked over and altered and perfected over the course of numerous concert performances.

Fujii's "Not Together" opens the disc with a stop-and-start rhythm and a clipped, precise, crystal clear vision. Fujii can probably be accurately described as an avant-garde artist, but in so many of her duet and solo endeavors that label doesn't seem to fit. An open-minded, open-eared immersion in the likes of Pentas, Confluence (Libra Records, 2019), or Solo (Libra Records, 2018) reveal an artist who creates boundary-less sounds that bring into the light unique facets of a sonic beauty that you've never heard before.

Track Listing

Not Together; Pentas; Wind Chill; Itsumo Itsumo; Stillness; Rising; Rnovation; Circle.


Satoko Fujii: piano; Natsuki Tamura: trumpet.

Album information

Title: Pentas: Tribute To Eric and Chris Stern | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Not Two Records

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